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Angels in America

Tony Kushner

Perestroika, Act Four, Scenes 6–9

Perestroika, Act Four, Scenes 1–5

Perestroika, Act Four, Scenes 6–9, page 2

page 1 of 2

Scene 6

Emily, Prior's nurse, berates him for endangering his health, but he is well aware that he is in trouble. He introduces Hannah as "my ex-lover's lover's Mormon mother." When Emily leaves, Prior tells Hannah that he must be insane for having seen an angel; she replies that her religion is based on the idea that Joseph Smith encountered an angel of God. Prior asks her whether any prophets in the Bible ever refused their prophecies—he has tried to run from the Angel but has failed. He senses the Angel's approach, and asks Hannah to stay with him and keep watch.

Scene 7

At home in bed, Harper asks Joe why he always closes his eyes during sex. She then answers her own question, saying that he imagines men. But the irony is that her time with him is the only time she does not have to imagine. Joe says he needs to go out to get some of his things. Harper demands that he look at her and asks him to tell her what he sees. "Nothing, I-" he stammers, and then stops. She thanks him for the truth.

Scene 8

When Joe enters Louis's apartment, Louis confronts him with a stack of Xeroxed articles—copies of the court decisions Joe has written. He is appalled by what he sees as the heartlessness and insensitivity of Joe's legal reasoning, especially a homophobic ruling in the case of a soldier discharged for being gay. Louis asks Joe, "Have you no decency?"—the same question that halted the career of Joseph McCarthy, a mentor of Roy's, in 1954. Louis demands to know whether Joe ever slept with Roy. As he berates Joe, Joe starts punching him repeatedly. Suddenly Joe stops, horrified at what he has done. Louis refuses help, saying that a little bleeding will do him good.

Scene 9

Ethel appears in Roy's hospital room. Roy is grinning because even though he is about to die he is still a lawyer. Ethel tells him he is wrong—the committee voted to disbar him and the recommendation was immediately accepted. She says she came to see if she could forgive him, but that all she can do is take pleasure in his misery. Roy falls silent, then calls out, "Ma?"—in his delusion he seems to think Ethel is his mother. In childlike tones, he says he feels bad and asks her to sing to him. Uncertain for a moment, she decides to sing softly to him in Yiddish. Just when she thinks he has died, he sits bolt upright—he was fooling her just to see if he could make her sing, exulting that he has finally won. He is gleeful for a moment, but then falls backward and dies.


Scene Eight is Louis's final repudiation of Joe—they will not see each other again in the play. Having learned that Joe is an intimate of Roy's, Louis decides to examine Joe's morality for himself, reading his court decisions. Appalled, he casts Joe out of his life with a towering self-righteousness. Louis, who once claimed he prefers the weighing of a life to the final verdict, has delivered a walloping verdict of his own.

The implications of the moment are disturbing. For one, it seems inconsistent on Louis's part: he has known Joe's politics since the day they met. That Joe takes a conservative position on judicial issues like environmental protection can hardly come as a surprise; even Joe's gay rights ruling, while lamentable, ought to be understandable to Louis. But Louis makes no further attempts to understand—even Joe's impassioned cries that he loves him fall on deaf ears.

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Subtitle mistake

by kaythumbs, November 13, 2014

I can see that this is not the forum for this but I don't know how to get a note to Tony Kushner nor to the people responsible for the subtitles. Had seen Angels in America a couple of times when it first came out so was revisiting it. Now old, I turned on the subtitles. In the beginning, Justin Kirk shows a lesion to his lover, who says it is just a burst blood vessel. Justin/Prior says " It is KS." The subtitle said "It is chaos."

At first I was appalled by the mistake and that nobody had apparently checked out the subtitles. ... Read more


1 out of 5 people found this helpful


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